Thursday, March 27, 2008

Victimless Crime

by Sara Paretsky

In the March 24 New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg riffs on Eliot Spitzer and American Puritans, and includes a long solo from our own Martha Nussbaum on how stupid we are to be so obsessed about sexual peccadilloes, which don't belong in political discourse. After all, as Alan Dershowitz, among many others, explains, prostitution is a victimless crime. Maybe Eliot's in trouble at home, but he shouldn't be in the State House, not for having sex with another consenting adult.

The most reliable studies on women who are prostitutes show that 85 percent remember a history of childhood sexual abuse. They learned from the earliest time in their lives that they didn't have rights, that they existed to be used and abused.

Eliot Spitzer is almost 50; his "consenting" partner was under twenty. Not that there's anything wrong with that, no, because it's a victimless crime.

It's been just about a year since the Supremes ruled that the so-called "Partial-birth" abortion ban was legal. The law includes a clause which makes a doctor performing such an abortion liable for monetary damanges for psychological injury to the woman’s husband and parents. So the law is a model of pre-1960 law, which holds that a woman is the property, either of her parents or of her husband. They own her; that's why they can sue for alleged damage to their property. The law also explicitly omits any exception if a woman's life or health are at stake: fetal life trumps female life as the law of the land.

Yup. No victims here, just pieces of property to be used at the owners' discretion.

26 comments:

Maryann said...

I'd like someone to explain how crime can be victimless, because every wrongful act I can think of includes someone doing something to someone else(whether it's a government or an individual). Do these guys really expect us to accept their rationale? Attitudes like this push every button I have.

guyot said...

For all the brilliant things he's said and done in his life, I feel like Dershowitz has jumped the shark. Quite a while ago. He and Jesse Jackson need to go sit in the park.

Someone or something always trumps someone or something else for any crime or law to exist.

Great post, Paretsky.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what it is you want.

Should we raise the age of consent to...30? 40?

Should we allow women to murder their inconvenient babies up to, say, a year after they're born?

Let's just pretend this is Burger King and you can have everything your way. What is it that you want?

Dana King said...

I have similar questions to those posed by anonymous, though I would have phrased them somewhat less argumentatively. I'm really posting here because my name will appear, because it's a pet peeve of mine for someone to disagree with a blog post anonymously. Sara--or any other blogger-- was willing to take the heat for her post; commenters should be willing to do the same.

Mark Combes said...

Common law is an evolutionary beast. Hell, at one time in this very land of ours, it was okay to own another human being. Incomprehensible today, but not in the antebellum south. What I'm saying is, I think, is that morals and mores shift and change as societies shift and change. For good and bad....

Thinking about this stuff makes me want to buy a sailboat and head south for a spell....

ab said...

I agree with Sara - I am sick and tired of hearing that prostitution is a choice by an entrepreneur, as if out bodies are disconnected from our psyches like any other commodity. If that was true, a rape would have no more effect on us than if someone borrowed our car. As we know, it does.

About the abortion, I doubt Sara means that partial-abortion is a good thing - it's of course not, abortions should be allowed but early. I think the emphasis is on the view of the female body as belonging to someone else than herself.

Furthermore, I wish Mrs Spitzer had taken a good swing at her stupid overbearing husband. In public.

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Sara Paretsky said...

Thanks to everyone who wrote in--i;m on tour in europe; don;t have regular access to a co,puter. Anony,ous--you agree with the supremes that female life is only valuable in utero?

Anonymous said...

I think males and females who engage in consensual sex should take responsibility for their actions.

I think all life has value. That's the point.

Nancy Edwards said...

Anonymous, if you think a woman should die rather than end a pregnancy which threatens her life, you don't respect all life--you only respect male and foetal life. And that is where the Supreme Court lined up, too. And, as you only post anonymously, you clearly are ashamed of your opinions.

Sara Paretsky said...

Nancy, I suspect anonymous is just very young, with the smugness of someone whose life has never been tested or challenged in a way to make her/him question her world. We'll just hope she or he isn't a pastor or therapist or in some other position where lack of empathy and lack of understanding of the blows life can deal will make her do lasting harm to another person.

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